Was Naomi a Good Mom-in-Law?

The book of Ruth has some wonderful truths and also some excellent lessons for daughters-in-law. This devotion explains. #Bible #MothersInLaw

Even though the Book of Ruth has greater meaning than the story of a relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, it still contains a godly example for daughter-in-laws. 

NAOMI: Despite her faith, Naomi allows bitterness to influence everything she does and she becomes unappreciative and self-centered in some areas of here life. But Ruth honors Naomi in spite of these things.(1) 

1. Naomi focuses on her pain.
After Naomi’s sons and husband die, she tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families, saying, “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:13)  

Was Naomi in a worse position? It depends on our perspective. Ruth lost her husband at a young age and during her 10 year marriage she'd been unable to have children. Surely Ruth was wondering if she'd ever be married again or ever have children. 

“Naomi seemed a bit insensitive to the grief of her daughters-in-law. She thought that her case was more bitter than theirs because they still had potential for childbearing.”The Bible Knowledge Commentary(2)  

2. Naomi shows no concern for the spiritual health of her daughters-in-law.

Naomi tries to convince Ruth and Orpah to return to their evil pagan culture even though they offer to come with her (Ruth 1:8-18).

On the one hand, Naomi was releasing her daughters-in-laws from any commitment they had to care for her, but her bitterness made her overlook their souls.

“Naomi was aware that the decision to return meant the continuing influence of the Moabite gods...(1 Kings 11:7)...Naomi did not make it easy for Ruth to come to faith in the God of Israel.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary(2)

3. When they return to Bethlehem, Naomi is Bitter and self-focused.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”Ruth 1:20-21  

Naomi tells everyone she's come back “empty” even though Ruth has given up country and family to accompany her.

Now let's look at Ruth...

The book of Ruth has some wonderful truths and also some excellent lessons for daughters-in-law. This devotion explains. #Bible #MothersInLaw
RUTH: She leaves country and family in order to help Naomi and live for the Lord instead of pagan gods.

1. She stands firm even though Naomi tries to persuade her to go back home.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God...” (Ruth 1:16-17). 

2. Ruth takes a difficult, humble job in order to feed Naomi and herself

Even though Naomi shows little concern for Ruth, Ruth shows great concern for Naomi (Romans 12:21).

Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, 'Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.' Naomi said to her, 'Go ahead, my daughter.' Ruth 2:2

3. Ruth's kindness is evident to all.

“Boaz replied, 'I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.'” (Ruth 2:11-12

4. God honors Ruth by putting her in the linage of Christ.

Ruth marries Boaz, they have a son, and everyone recognizes Ruth's value: "For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth..." ( Ruth 4:13-17).

Ruth is one of the few women mentioned in Christ's genealogy.  See Matthew 1:1-17.

I doubt God will ask you or me to leave our country or take a humble job to feed our mother-in-law. But the story of Ruth encourages us to love our mother-in-law out of reverence for God even if she is bitter, unappreciative, and selfish. She may not notice, but God and others will! And we will grow closer to God in the process.

Homework: Read the book of Ruth and ask God to speak to you specifically about your relationship with your mother-in-law...or your mother, if you have these same difficulties with her.

(1) This is not to say that Naomi didn't have faith or didn't behave more godly at other stages of her life, but she had allowed life to leave her bitter at this point in time and she freely admitted it (Ruth 1:20). I've behaved like Naomi at times, so I'm not condemning her without acknowledging my own sins, but they are sins just the same.

(2) The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:420). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books  

For more insights on Naomi and Ruth check out these short Bible studies: Don't Change Your Name and Imagine This.

This is one of my marriage posts, but I post a 1-Minute devotion on my home page every weekday...devotions about my struggles, joys, and lessons learned. If you'd like to have my 1-Minute Bible Love Notes sent to your email box, sign up for a free subscription.

For more insights on this subject:
Part 1: Bless Your Marriage: Love Your Mom-in-Law
Part 2: Mother-in-Laws Who Mock Your Values  
Part 3: Mother-in-Laws Who Interfere 
Part 4: Having God's Heart for Your Mother-in-Law
Part 5: Disinterested In-Laws 
Part 7: Six Things I Did Wrong

The book of Ruth has some wonderful truths and also some excellent lessons for daughters-in-law. This devotion explains.

The book of Ruth has some wonderful truths and also some excellent lessons for daughters-in-law. This devotion explains.


  1. love studying the book of ruth a love story , a family story , a story we can all learn from

    come see me at http://shopannies.blogspot.com

    1. yes, the Book of Ruth is rich with meaning in so many areas of life.

    2. I realized after a while , the struggle with my mother in law and I was her Son’s relationship to his mother. To the best of my daily grace I worked at this. I also worked with my father in law I honored them. It always ended tram-a and drama. My husband is bu Polar which we learned after learned after 40 years of marriage. So, I want to praise God, for allowing me the daily grace to do the best I could. I honor them and let go of my sadness of the situation and choose to be married 52 years. I have peace

  2. I struggle with this. My Mother in law rarely thinks before she speaks. The things that come out of her mouth can be very hurtful and well, thougtless. I am really trying to look past it. I am not always successful and it isn't always easy but I am working on this. I have seen some positive changes in her so I need to just continue on and do what God would want me to do.

  3. Also thanks for the perspective. I didn't view Naomi quite like this. I figured she was in deep mourning over the loss of her husband and sons. But, when you think about it, it did cause her to be selfish with her daughter in laws.

    1. So glad you stopped by, Amber. I know doing these things can be difficult, but they really are worth the effort. I imagine that because Ruth stuck with Naomi during her bitter years, Naomi probably became a better person and a better mother-in-law. At least that's often the case in our lives.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I needed to hear this today!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to let me know this was helpful.

  5. I also forgot to mention we are a different faith as well. She is Catholic and we go to my father in law's church which is a church of the Nazarene. She has told me to pray to a saint if I lose something. I told her I pray directly to God. I am not afraid to say so. She knows I am not Catholic. Wanted us to have a Catholic wedding. He isn't Catholic either. Went growing up but he prefers Christain faith.

    1. Different faiths can make the relationship challenging, but I know God will give you wisdom in dealing with these situations gracefully. I appreciate you taking time to think through this issue, Amber. It shows that you care, and that's such an important aspect of the relationship.

  6. Thank you for the well-written summary. Good things to consider. (Found this post through CornerstoneConfessions.com linky party.)

  7. I love the book of Ruth. Thank you for sharing these insights about moms-in-law. I hadn't ever really thought about it in this way before. I'm sure it was very difficult for Ruth to deal with Naomi's attitude until her heart changed.

  8. Love the Book of Ruth for sure. All the women of the Bible have such beautiful lessons to teach.
    Blessings to you for sharing.

  9. I love the book of Ruth. I had a very special mother-in-law. Thank you Gail for writing a post that will encourage those ladies who have situations that are challenging.

    1. P.S. I forgot to thank you for linking up over at WholeHearted-Home Wednesdays. I appreciate you!!

  10. I know this is an older post, but I am new to reading this. I have been married for 17 years and my Mother in law and myself are at a cross roads. Where she wants what she wants and I am unwilling to give her what she was as I feel she is being unreasonable and insensitive to my feelings. To give a brief perspective of my situation, My mother was killed in a car accident when I was 14... I'm 44 years old now and I don't know if this makes sense or not, but my 14 year old self then was a true 14 year old girl. Not like these today. To me my mother was like a super hero and was the greatest person in the world. When she was killed, it was catastrophic to me. As the years have passed I am just now really dealing with that loss. I have always honored her and fought to keep my fading memories of her alive. My Mother in law and my spouse as well has often voiced to me that I should look to her as my mother. Even to the point that repeatedly asking me or expecting me to call her "mom", of which I have declined and explained why I don't want to. All I have of my mother is that she is my mother. I have no desire to call anyone else mom because of this. I want to keep that title just for her and no one else. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't care for my MIL. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't do anything for her. I would do what ever she asked me to do...except that. In the beginning, we got along. We were fine...I would even venture to say it was a good relationship. But, we didnt live near her and we only seen each other when my spouse and I would visit for holidays or such(we were a military family). Now, we are living int he same city and its a disaster. She tried to take over my home, and force herself into a space in my life that I clearly told her was forbidden. This has caused tension and a rift with her and I. Its also causing problems with my spouse as he wants me to have this "mother/daughter" relationship with his Mom. I have distanced myself from her completely. I don't call her anymore, I don't visit her. I only see her at family functions at which time I am cordial. But I don't want this to continue to cause a rift with my spouse. Although I am not willing to budge on my stance of how I choose to honor my mother. I need to have some sort of base on how to relay this issue with a scripture that will provide me understanding on how to deal with this. I'm at a loss.

    1. HI Ms. Collins,

      I'm sorry you lost your mother so young. I lost my mother when I was 40 and I feel like that was early.

      Most of us have more difficulty honoring our mother-in-laws. And it would be a rare situation for a mother-in-law to take the place of our mothers....our mothers will always hold a special place.

      However, I think we grow spiritually the very most through honoring difficult parents and in-laws.

      And, from my experience, it all started with my attitudes and perspectives. I don't mean to say that my mil was a perfect person and I was all at fault. But I realized that in many ways, I had set unfair boundaries with her and didn't give her a chance. I encourage you to read through this whole series and ask God to reveal any areas where He would like you to make efforts.

      God bless you as you do this. It's not easy, but so worthwhile!!